Rainbow - A Private Affair

Italy-France 2017, 84 mins
Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani

Paolo and Vittorio Taviani on ‘Rainbow: A Private Affair’

Have you had plans for a long time to adapt Beppe Fenoglio’s novel?

We still find it hard to believe it ourselves, but it really happened like this: one afternoon, four years ago, one in Rome and the other in Salina, without knowing we listened at the same time on the radio to the deep voice of Omero Antonutti, an actor that we love very much and who appeared in Padre Padrone, reading Una questione privata by Beppe Fenoglio. Suddenly, and still separately, we both called him. Omero laughed: ‘But it’s been over ten years since I recorded it!’ and he added: ‘Your brother called to thank me five minutes ago! What is going on?’ Within a few days we knew what would be our next film.

The confrontation between the public soul and the private soul, an eternal theme and ever more pressing today, found a new life thanks to literature, thanks to Beppe Fenoglio and his great love story.

At first glance, Rainbow: A Private Affair seems be a film about the Resistance, about the partisans…

For us, it is above all the story of madness in love (it recalls Orlando Furioso, as told by Calvino), a love story at odds with the moment in history in which it occurs. The horror of war runs parallel to Milton’s search for truth. The half-truth wickedly suggested by the babysitter is not enough for him, he wants all the truth. Madness in love makes him forget the Resistance, who led him into the mountains to fight fascism.

Fascists still on screen today?

For us, this is essential. Today, fascism returns or tries to come back. Not long ago, the far-right party Forza Nuova published a poster copied from that of the Republic of Salò where a Black man puts his hands on a beautiful white woman represented as defenceless. And this party is attracting more and more Italians…

Him, her, the other. A narrative archetype to which you have already referred…

Indeed, it is the classic love triangle, a true genre in itself, which has inspired both mediocre and extraordinary films… The myth of originality is nonsense for us. We always copy, trying to tell the same stories differently. Within this known structure, we invent new characters, a new love story like that of Milton, Fulvia and Giorgio.

You are familiar with the adaptation of literary works to cinema (Padre Padrone, Kaos, Elective Affinities etc). Is the work different when starting from an existing text?

The choice to adapt a novel always arises from the intuition that its pages will allow us to express and represent our thoughts, our existential anxieties. Whether the text is by Tolstoy or Pirandello, we follow our path which is that of cinema. We know we will have to betray the author. Pirandello rightly said that ‘stories are like empty sacks, shrivelled on the ground. They only arise if you fill them with your feelings and your impulses.’

The use of music is very evocative of the years leading up to the war…

Both in the novel and in the film, the song ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, sung by Judy Garland, returns as the evocative element of an era, the 1940s. The original music of the film arises somewhat by contradiction: the reassuring notes of ‘Rainbow’ transform into hoarse, tormented notes, fusing the classic sounds of an orchestra and those of contemporary electronics. The partisan Milton guided us here in his amorous and deadly madness.

How did you choose the actors?

Luca Marinelli, our Milton, touched us with his deliberately excessive playing in Mauvaise graine by Claudio Caligari and On l’appelle Jeeg Robot by Gabriele Mainetti. He has an extraordinary ability to step outside of himself and become one of these evil, weak characters. Then there is the strength of his gaze.

Valentina Bellè we knew from our film Wondrous Boccaccio. At the beginning of that film she plays a young girl who dies of the plague. Surrounded by her family, she utters a single line before her death: ‘I’m dying and I haven’t enjoyed much.’ A difficult scene. And Valentina was vibrant. For Fulvia we immediately thought of her.

Lorenzo Richelmy, who plays Giorgio, convinced us in auditions where his character is ferociously beaten by the fascists. The character has the strength to answer them, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I am a fighter.’ Lorenzo said it with dignity, without emphasis, almost gently. A true actor.

How important is it to film in the locations where the book takes place?

We did not do it! We went to the Langhe, but today there are vineyards as far as the eye can see, which look like rows of toy soldiers. These were not the windswept hills Fenoglio recounted. Emita [Frigato], the production designer, was not fazed and introduced us to one of the most beautiful valleys in our mountains, Val Maira. We reconstructed the partisan camp, at an altitude of 2,300 meters. Luckily it was warm. But a black fog rolled in in the evening, which was perfect for the atmosphere of the film.

Production notes

Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Production Companies: Stemal Entertainment, Ipotesi Cinema, Les Films d’Ici, Sampek Productions
In association with: RAI Cinema, Cineventure
Producers: Donatella Palermo, Ermanno Olmi, Elisabetta Olmi, Serge Lalou, Eric Lagesse
Casting Director: Stefania Rodà
Written by: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Based on a novel by: Beppe Fenoglio
Director of Photography: Simone Zampagni
Editor: Roberto Perpignani
Special Effects: Canecane
Production Designer: Emita Frigato
Costume Designers: Lina Nerli Taviani, Valentina Taviani
Music: Giuliano Taviani, Carmelo Travia
Sound: Gianfranco Tortora

Luca Marinelli (Milton)
Lorenzo Richelmy (Giorgio)
Valentina Bellè (Fulvia)
Francesca Agostini (Giovane Contadina)
Giulio Beranek (Ivan)
Andrea Di Maria (prisoner)

Italy-France 2017
84 mins

The Subversives I sovversivi
Fri 1 Mar 18:20; Tue 5 Mar 20:40
The Night of the Shooting Stars La notte di San Lorenzo
Sat 2 Mar 15:45; Tue 12 20:20 + extended intro by season curator Adrian Wootton
Good Morning Babylon Good Morning, Babilonia
Sat 2 Mar 18:10; Thu 7 Mar 20:40
The Lark Farm La masseria delle allodole
Sat 2 Mar 20:40; Sun 10 Mar 18:15
The Meadow Il prato
Sun 3 Mar 12:30; Sat 9 Mar 18:20
Rainbow: A Private Affair Una questione privata
Fri 8 Mar 17:55; Mon 11 Mar 21:00
Leonora Addio
Sat 9 Mar 20:40; Wed 13 Mar 17:50

With thanks to
Carla Cattani, Livia Azzolini, Monica Moscato and Erika Allegrucci at Cinecittà.
Presented in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in London and the Italian Cultural Institute. Co-produced by Cinecittà, Rome.

Co-produced by
Cinecittà, Rome

The monograph Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, published by Cinecittà, and featuring an article by season curator Adrian Wootton, will be available during the season.

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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